Rolling along the shores of Lake Como and climbing past the Madonna del Ghisallo chapel, the Piccolo Lombardia follows in its big brother’s well-established footsteps.
Coming so late in the season, it occupies an unenviable place in the espoirs calendar. Too late to have much impact in the search for a pro contract for next season, but too early to be fresh in a team manager’s by the time next season’s negotiations come around. However, like Il Lombardia itself, this one of the most prestigious and beautiful one-day races on the circuit, attracting teams from around Europe to compete under the early-autumn’s falling leaves.
Protagonists and antagonists
BMC Development Team sends a strong team to their penultimate race which can, as usual, be expected to challenge for the victory. Marc Hirschi looks well suited this sort of course, but DS Jens Blatter has also mentioned Patrick Muller and Steff Cras – the latter having prepared on a diet of 1.12s in Belgium – as potential team leaders. Muller will be keen to improve on his fourth place in this event in 2016 and to show the BMC management that letting him go to Vital Concept next season was a mistake.
Lotto-Soudal placed riders in first and third at this race in 2016 and can be expected to send another strong squad, although it had not been made public before the race weekend.
Sunweb’s German champion Max Kanter is in good form, having finished 7th at the Worlds in Bergen and riding with the Sunweb elite team as a stagiare. Kanter’s strengths lie in the hills and sprints, so this is an event which should suit him perfectly.
It’s a brave man who bets against UAE stagiare Aleksandr Riabushenko in an Italian 1.2U. Riding for his ‘parent’ Team Palazzago Amaru, the 2016 European Champion favours the short hills, so he’ll have no problem getting over the Madonna del Ghisallo. At his best from a small break, the Ukrainian will want to animate the race to turn things in his favour.
New world champion Benoit Cosnefroy will not take the start line with his Chambery Cyclisme Formation team, thereby missing out on a rare opportunity to wear his U23 rainbow stripes. The Frenchman moves up to the WorldTour with AG2R next season.
Espoirs.World Betting.Shop – Piccolo Lombardia
Slam Dunk: Marc Hirschi
Worth A Punt: Patrick Muller
My Irish grandmother’s backing… Aleksandr Riabushenko